Matthew Hoggard: I'm happy to talk about my depression because getting it out there might help others

What I Learnt This Week

Sunday 23 October 2011 02:47

People may have wondered whether I was close to tears the other night after being clobbered for 18 runs in an over at Old Trafford.

Nearer to tears of joy, actually, by the end of the match, but more of that later. It seems, though, that some comments I made about depression which went out on a radio programme this week have hit home with quite a few folk.

I must admit I did not listen to the live show, having been interviewed earlier by my old Yorkshire and England team-mate Michael Vaughan, but plenty of people (mostly strangers but some friends as well) have tweeted me since to say "well done" for speaking out about a subject which is too often brushed under the carpet.

When I was asked to contribute to Vaughan's programme, I agreed because I had already written about depression in my autobiography a couple of years ago. I explained in the book how I had felt close to tears, on the field, during the 2008 tour of New Zealand and my wife, Sarah, had her own chapter which talked about her depression following the birth of our son, Ernie.

So it was something I'd already spoken about. And I'm not ashamed of it. Hopefully the more people are open and honest about depression the sooner it will cease to be a taboo subject and then other sufferers will find it easier to seek help.

The best way I can explain how I felt in New Zealand is to liken it to when you are a small child and you cannot get your own way. You burst into tears, and that is what I wanted to do – on the field, during a Test match. I was trying so hard to put things right, but it just wasn't happening. Sarah was in New Zealand at the same time but the only place she really wanted to be was at home. It was a tough time for us, but thankfully we seem to be getting through it.

I have an exciting challenge at Leicestershire. Sarah, though, made a massive sacrifice last year to leave just about everything and everyone she knew in Yorkshire – and she did it to come with me to keep the family together.

It's fine for me because I'm playing or training or going to meetings. Everything for me is normal – the same routine I've been used to for 15 years. So it's easy for me to forget that things are different, and a lot harder, for Sarah and I think I do forget that a lot of the time.

I wouldn't say our experiences mean that I'm looking out for signs of depression in other people much more than would have been the case a few years ago, but I do hope I can help if the situation arises. And has it?

I don't want to go into details but all I will say is that I was with a player, in domestic cricket, who I realised was taking anti-depressants. He told me they were antibiotics but I recognised the name of the pills and I knew he was struggling. I couldn't let it pass because I wanted him to know I was there if he wanted to talk about it. I think getting depression out in the open is so important; talking about it, having an outlet, helps a lot.

2. Razzaq gives it plenty while I learn ups and downs of T20

So back to that Twenty20 match at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. A few years ago, getting hit for 18 in one over would have left me thinking "I'm crap and I can't play this game any more," but in T20 you just have to accept that sometimes it's not going to be your day and let someone else have a go. And if I needed any proof of that, all I had to do was think back a few days, because then, in the same competition and against the same opponents (Lancashire), my first over had gone for one run and I'd taken a wicket.

But Wednesday night ended up being all about another bloke: our newly arrived overseas recruit, Abdul Razzaq (below). We were out of it, just about gone, when he walked to the wicket and smashed 62 off 30 deliveries to give us victory with one ball to spare.

Unfortunately we cannot afford to put Abdul through the same pre-match routine every time. His warm-up for Old Trafford was to drive something like eight hours from Lahore to Islamabad and back to collect a visa, jump on a plane to Heathrow, get driven to Leicester and then join us on the journey to Old Trafford.

I've always thought of Abdul as the smiling assassin when I've played against him because he usually gives you a smile just before launching you into the stands. And he did plenty of smiling and launching on Wednesday night.

But I think his best contribution of all to the evening's entertainment was delivered with a poker face immediately after the match. He looked at our coach, Phil Whitticase, and asked: "Are you pleased, coach?" Phil couldn't quite respond in the same cool way. "Pleased?" he spluttered. "I'm 'effing ecstatic!"

I was pretty chuffed, too, and would just like to thank Irfan Pathan for making it all possible. He was supposed to be our overseas T20 player but for whatever reason didn't come.

3. Lord's slope means GB archers should target a bagful of medals

Careful inspection of my credit card statement reveals I've not bought a single ticket for next year's Olympic Games. Still, that isn't too much of a disappointment as I didn't actually apply for any on the grounds that the only event which might attract my interest – beach volleyball – is likely to be heavily over-subscribed.

That said, I have been giving the Olympics some thought. I understand the archery is to be held at Lord's and I'm wondering whether this is a cunning ploy to boost our medal tally. After all, I cannot imagine the bowmen of Japan and China know anything about the Lord's slope so there could be a serious case of home advantage. I mean, an eight-foot drop must make a significant difference to arrows as well as balls, but let's keep that to ourselves.

4. After also smashing a Lord's window, I can feel Prior's pain

Talking of Lord's, my sympathies are with Matt Prior when it comes to the mysterious case of the broken window. First, I should point out that Matt is not the only person to have broken a dressing-room window at the home of cricket. I did it after Yorkshire's victory in the 2002 C&G Trophy final – while we were enjoying a celebratory shandy and bellowing out a few verses of "Wild Rover".

I was banging my hand on the window, mid-chorus, when the inevitable happened. Still, the MCC were understanding and declined to send me the repair bill. And there was no question of being reprimanded by a match referee.

Which brings me back to Prior. If you cannot let off steam in the privacy of your dressing room, then where can you? It was just unfortunate that he broke a window – he could just as easily have damaged a wall and no one would have been any the wiser.

5. Will I play on until I'm 40? Only if my glass is half-full

I see that Sanath Jayasuriya has been recalled to Sri Lanka's one-day side at the age of 41 (no wonder 40-year-old Paul Nixon, our irrepressibly enthusiastic senior player at Leicester, still keeps an eagle eye on the international fixtures).

So can I see myself still playing at that age? Only for the village team with a couple of pints inside me and maybe another waiting on the boundary at fine leg.

6. England's footballers weren't over the moon...but we were

England's footballers were slated by all and sundry for drawing against Switzerland last weekend. But while our cricketers have generally enjoyed a lot more praise than criticism over the past few years, I do remember them being sent to the moon not so long ago.

It was during a Test against South Africa when we couldn't polish off their tail and allowed No 11 Paul Adams (the man described as a "Frog in a Blender" because of his weird bowling action) to get some runs. One of the papers the next day had the whole England team aboard a lunar rocket. You have to laugh – and it's better than having your face on a turnip, I suppose.

7. Little Ernie makes a splash as we go messing about on the river

No matter what anyone says, nothing beats the logic of a four-year-old. One of the nicest things about where we live in Leicestershire is that there's a lovely little river, a five-minute walk from our back garden – just right for me to go fishing with my little boy, Ernie.

There he was this week, in the shallows with his wellies on, while I'm chasing the fish into his net. But he's determined, he tells me, not to get wet. Fine. Except the next minute, in his excitement, he's in the river up to his waist. "I thought you didn't want to get wet," said I. "Don't worry, Daddy, it's only water," he replied.

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